Monday, June 26, 2017

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 6 (Michael Tilson Thomas)


Information

Composer: Gustav Mahler

CD1:
  1. Symphony No. 6 in A minor: I. Allegro energico, ma non troppo - Heftig, aber markig
  2. Symphony No. 6 in A minor: II. Scherzo: Wuchtig
  3. Symphony No. 6 in A minor: III. Andante moderato
CD2:
  1. Symphony No. 6 in A minor: IV. Finale: Allegro moderato - Allegro energico

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Date: 2001
Label: SFS Media
http://sanfranciscosymphony.downloadsnow.net/mahler-symphony-no-6

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Review

GRAMOPHONE EDITOR'S CHOICE

An eloquently tragic Sixth makes a forceful start to Michael Tilson Thomas’s Mahler cycle

This recording of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony was made from performances planned long before the events of September 11 gave the San Francisco Symphony’s choice of repertory extraordinary resonance. One must be careful‚ of course‚ when connecting a very real tragedy with a recording of a ‘tragic’ symphony‚ for there is the risk of descending into the most vile form of marketing (which the SFS appears to have avoided)‚ as well as the possibility that the musical result will not be able to bear the expressive burden placed upon it‚ or that the work itself will be distorted by the heightened emotions of the moment. It is a credit to both Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra‚ then‚ that this ferocious performance not only bears that very substantial burden‚ but that it does so without hysteria or self­indulgence.

Tempos are judiciously chosen. In the first movement‚ for example‚ Tilson Thomas’s Allegro energico‚ ma non troppo is only a hair’s breadth slower than Bernstein’s in his Vienna Philharmonic recording‚ yet the difference is enough to give proper weight to the march. Indeed‚ the SFS strings dig very deep to produce a dark‚ throaty tone of startling vehemence. Ardently played and generously phrased‚ the ‘Alma’ theme provides welcome consolation – and how longingly Tilson Thomas clings to the final peaks of its melody.

Gunshot­like sforzandi from the timpani introduce the scherzo‚ sharply­etched here with stinging dotted rhythms. The trios are similarly pointed – though affectionately grazioso‚ as Mahler requests – and rather deliberately paced‚ like a long­forgotten dance now remembered in slow motion. The Andante moderato is also treated expansively‚ but the tension never sags‚ thanks largely to Tilson Thomas’ natural feeling for the music’s ebb and flow. Note‚ for instance‚ how conscientiously he observes the many tempo modifications in the climactic passage beginning at fig 59 (12'30")‚ wrenching as much tension as possible from the ritard in bars 152­153‚ yet none of this pushing and pulling sounds exaggerated. Karajan‚ by contrast‚ pays little heed to these markings‚ and the result‚ though beautifully played‚ is unidiomatic.

Tilson Thomas mis­steps only once in the sprawling finale‚ pressing too hard at the end of the introduction so that the orchestra arrives prematurely at the main tempo (Allegro energico) – a minor flaw and quickly forgiven. The famous hammer blows pack a wallop‚ even if they sound more like deep‚ resonant thuds here than the heavy axe­strokes Mahler specifies. The first blow is truly disorienting‚ and the music almost spins out of control‚ with strings rushing ahead of the brass. The aftershocks that follow the second blow seem inexorable. While the exhausted trumpets do not quite manage a true morendo on the final chord‚ it seems churlish to complain.

Certainly a more impressive start to Tilson Thomas and the SFS’s Mahler cycle is difficult to imagine. Less mannered than Bernstein‚ and more emotionally engaged than Karajan‚ this is an exceptionally intense and‚ under the circumstances‚ remarkably coherent performance that is not to be missed. Very good sound quality‚ too‚ from the orchestra’s new in­house label.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/May02/Mahler6_MTT.htm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/3zbd/
https://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-7730/
http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/s/sfs00001a.php
https://www.amazon.com/Mahler-Symphony-No-6-Gustav/dp/B000060OQ5
https://www.amazon.com/Mahler-Symphony-No-minor-Tragic/dp/B000063XWU

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Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austrian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. In his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, but his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of neglect. After 1945, Mahler became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers. Mahler's œuvre is relatively small. Aside from early works, most of his are very large-scale works, designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Mahler

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Michael Tilson Thomas (born December 21, 1944) is an American conductor, pianist and composer. He studied piano with John Crown, composition and conducting under Ingolf Dahl. As a student of Friedelind Wagner, Tilson Thomas was a Musical Assistant and Assistant Conductor at the Bayreuth Festival. He is currently music director of the San Francisco Symphony (since 1995), and artistic director of the New World Symphony Orchestra (which he founded in 1987). He was also the principal conductor of the London Symphony from 1988 to 1995, and since 1995, held the title of principal guest conductor.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Tilson_Thomas
http://michaeltilsonthomas.com/

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